It opens with a clock counting down until show time — the dropped stomach, rollercoaster slowly encroaching its apex sensation — and then, a gentle fake out. Taylor Swift is heard before she is seen. “It’s been a long time…” her voice carries. Then the drop hits: an abridged performance of “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” into “Cruel Summer,” a track that TikTok breathed new life into four years after its initial release on her 2019 album “Lover.”
This is the moment it should become clear: “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” film is a near exact replica of her blockbuster concert performance, which recaps all 10 of her studio albums across 17 years of recorded work. There will be no narrative breaks, no behind-the-scenes footage, no additional ornamentation of the monolithic set (with the exception of a few CGI effects and album title cards to introduce each epoch.) The film delivers on the promise of its title: this is the Eras Tour in full — conveniently viewable at an AMC theater near you.
For those who’ve managed to snag tickets to the Eras Tour concert, it is the ability to relive the experience, likely with loved ones who weren’t as lucky. For those who didn’t attend, it’s a chance to test expectations versus reality. But for everyone, it is the opportunity to have every seat in the house transform into the best seat in the house. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is all up close and personal footage from every vantage point, courtesy of Sam Wrench, who shot and directed it.
Where else but in this film can you be placed inches from Swift’s moss-covered “evermore” album -era piano as she introduces “Champagne Problems” — so close as to examine phalanges as they press down on the final notes of the song’s coda? And where else does it sound this good, highlighting sonic details that might’ve been missed in the stadium setting? Like guitars placed high in the mix on “Look What You Made Me Do,” differing slightly from the recording, or emphasis placed on moments fans have transformed into opportunities from insider participation, like when everyone shouts, “1, 2, 3, 4, let’s go, bitch!” in “Delicate,” as inspired by a viral video?
Edits to the three-and-a-half-hour concert production are few on screen. Costume changes are cut down. Some songs are snipped, like “The Archer,” “Cardigan,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “no body no crime.” The “Speak Now” section is just one song long: “Enchanted,” with “Long Live” soundtracking the end credits alongside images of “Eras Tour” bloopers and an endless exchange of friendship bracelets. On stage banter, too, is limited, mostly reserved for humor and exposition.
As previously reported, the concert film, compiled from several Swift shows at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles, is expected to launch with $100 million, or possibly more. Advance ticket sales worldwide have already surpassed $100 million.
AMC announced that the concert film broke its record for highest ticket sales revenue in a single day. The theater chain Cinemark reported domestic pre-sale records are more than “10 times higher pre-sales than any other cinema engagement event.”
It’s too early to tell, but all signs point to her usurping 2011’s “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” as the biggest concert film, ever. And for the premiere Wednesday night in Los Angeles, Swift shut down The Grove, a bustling mall just south of Hollywood, and watched her performance in an auditorium alongside a star-studded audience of Adam Sandler, Mariska Hargitay, actor Julia Garner, “Queer Eye” co-host Karamo Brown, country star Maren Morris, singer Hayley Kiyoko and Bachelor Nation’s Becca Tilley.
It is massive, but nothing could exactly recreate the decibel-bursting exhilaration of a live music performance, particularly one at this scale. But in this format, Swift gets as close as possible — and for her, being an exception to the rule is par for the course. In a fractured, algorithmic music industry, Swift is a final exemplar of monoculture, a figure recognizable by most. And because of that fact, she’s able to fully communicate her power in a concert film with little to no dialogue.
(That, admittedly, is something available to only her and Beyoncé, a superstar Swift has learned from and mirrored, in some ways. For example: Beyoncé limits traditional press appearances to instead present her own story in her own terms; Swift has begun to do the same. Relatedly, Bey will release a documentary chronicling her Renaissance World Tour, premiering at AMC theaters in North American on Dec. 1 in a similar agreement to Swift.)
The success of Swift’s concert film, too, has something to do with the setting of a theater. Her revealing 2020 documentary, “Miss Americana,” was released to Netflix and meant to be absorbed with a kind of intimacy. The viewer is with her in the backseat of car, listening to her incredible candor about the pressures of being Swift, and in a particularly memorable moment, disordered eating.
A very different viewing experience, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is meant to be enjoyed communally — a shout-along affair where fans in bespoke cosplay can dance and sing and film the screen on their smartphones, breaking the rules of the traditional movie-going experience. Strangers become friends. And all the while, feeling closer to Swift than ever before.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” an AMC release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for some strong language and suggestive material. Running time: 168 minutes. Three stars out of four.